Triangle The Play

Triangle

Patrick Keppel

Characters:

Joan shirtwaist factory forewoman

Mollie young labor activist

Sadie young shirtwaist factory worker

Rose older shirtwaist factory worker

Blanck owner of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

OPENING FRAME

JOAN emerges from the cloth…

SCENE 1:  The Machine

A sewing table at a shirtwaist factory, New York City, 1918 (seven years after the Triangle fire).  At the table are SADIE, ROSE, and MOLLIE.  They are flanked on one side by BLANCK’s station and on the other by JOAN’s.  The conditions are hot, stuffy, dim, noisy; the women are working at their machines with the tense, nervous quality the job requires.  In fact, together they are a machine.  They are inextricably tied to their machines, to the cloth, to each other; they are sewing fabric, but are also sewn into the fabric with each stitch—sewn into the machine-system they comprise.  The girls are planning an escape (through marriage, through activism), so they are hushed and conspiratorial beneath the constant drone of their machines, especially ROSE and SADIE.  They are wrapped in fear, as talking is not allowed at the factory; if they are fired, they and their families would suffer greatly.  They are innocent and don’t know they are really just machines or lumps of cloth.  MOLLIE has some insight into their predicament and is thus more voiced, but she too is an innocent and fearfully constrained, until she bursts out in a reckless attempt to make it all “stop.”

ROSE

You didn’t let him!

I don’t see a ring.

SADIE

He’s still saving for one.

I don’t need one anyway.

We’re in love.

ROSE

A fool and her love are soon parted.

SADIE

Not everyone has your bad luck, Rose.

We’ll see who’s a fool when I walk out

of this miserable place forever.

ROSE

Just don’t sell too cheap too soon.

SADIE

Every week, a girl leaves here.

Forever!

MOLLIE

No.

A beat. ROSE and SADIE are irritated that MOLLIE speaks up with more voice than they do.  They want her to hush, so they are not caught.  From here, there is an increased tension between hushing and speaking out, between unstoppable machine movements and the need to stop.

MOLLIE

Most come back,

they’re all around us.

They have to.

ROSE

Well, if the husband dies.

MOLLIE

Or gets mangled in a machine.

Or gets laid off.

Or gets drafted to fight in some pointless war.

ROSE

Hey!  My brother’s over there right now!

MOLLIE

And where’s his wife?

SADIE

But none of that will happen to me.

MOLLIE

Even if it doesn’t, with six children

it’s almost impossible to live.

SADIE

Well, I’m having only two.

MOLLIE

You may be having one already.

ROSE

That’s cruel!

MOLLIE

What’s cruel?  The truth?

When she’s married, whether she likes it or not

she’ll have so many children cut out of her

that between having them

and making sure they don’t starve,

there’ll be nothing left of her but a pile of scraps.

SADIE

I’ll take my chances.

MOLLIE

Look at our own mothers.

Why should our lives be any different?

SADIE (confused)

But we have to get married!

MOLLIE

Only if it’s a choice—

ROSE (to Sadie)

She’s talking about the vote.

MOLLIE (stopping work)

No!  I’m talking about our freedom,

the fire we’re born with,

the fire that gets smothered

everywhere we turn.

The others scoff, laugh nervously.

We have to fight to keep it burning . . .

Listen to me!

MOLLIE tears the cloth away from her machine, then reaches around the table and rips the pieces they are working on away from their machines, shouting at them.

SADIE

Hey!  Are you crazy?

MOLLIE

Nothing will stop until we stop!

ROSE

Give that back.

I’m not staying overtime because of you.

JOAN deftly snatches the pieces from MOLLIE and quickly examines them.

SADIE (panicked)

We didn’t do anything!

JOAN (redistributing the pieces, re-starting the ‘machine’)

It’s all right, we can fix them.

No one will know.

Sleeves!  Haven’t done this in a while.

But you never forget.

JOAN sits down at MOLLIE’s machine.   She’s strangely blithe about sliding back into the machine-world, which now resumes more gently and more controlled.  JOAN is a conflicted character, both worldly and other-worldly.  She’s one of these women, but not one of them; in some ways she’s closer to BLANCK, both in her role as Forewoman and as one who shared the traumatic experience of strike and fire.  She can speak freely and without constraint, and with immense authority.  She has been each one of these girls at different points in her life, and she feels genuine rapport with them; but due to her past trauma, she’s stuck—not a live person, but a ghost of her former self, a symbolic figure (like the woman who jumps in Scene 3).

ROSE (shaken, humbly returning to the machine-self)

Joan, please . . . it wasn’t us.

JOAN

Were you talking?

SADIE

Only a little.  I’m getting married—

JOAN

Talking is forbidden.

Production is slipping at this table,

especially yours, Sadie.

Your place at the machine

is worth more than you are.

SADIE (teary, frantic; scrambling to return to the machine-self)

I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

JOAN

There are plenty of ambitious girls

out there just waiting for you to fall.

Girls determined to save their families

from poverty all by themselves.

Until they burn out.

Or just burn.  (first ghostly sense)

Girls like Mollie.

Go on and be the Forewoman for a while, Mollie.

You will be someday.

ROSE (a beat; stunned, indignant)

She was trying to get us to join a union!

But we’re not!

SADIE

And said bad things about the war,

we heard her.

ROSE

I think she’s the one

planting those papers all around.

JOAN (produces a pamphlet from beneath some cloth)

So that’s what this thing is.

(reads) “Workers and the Conquest of Bread!”

MOLLIE

Guns without bread are worthless.

JOAN

Oh, I’m sure they are.

I’ve seen her.  She reads her books

like this, one eye on the needle,

the other on the page— oh, look!

The important parts are marked with stars!

(reads). “Because to be a worker now

means to shut yourself up

for twelve hours a day in an unhealthy workshop

for wages you can barely live on,

and to remain riveted to the same task

for twenty or thirty years—

MOLLIE

—and maybe for your whole life!”

JOAN

Yes, exactly—word for word!  (dramatic):

“What we proclaim is THE RIGHT TO WELL-BEING:

WELL-BEING FOR ALL!”

ROSE and SADIE at last feel it’s safe to laugh.

MOLLIE (with forced patience)

I understand this mindless work

has all but crushed your spirits.

ROSE

Speak for yourself!

MOLLIE

And you for yours!

For just one moment raise your heads

out of this stifling drudgery

and let your humanity breathe!

ROSE and SADIE laugh.

MOLLIE

You’ll see—it’s not hard at all.

We have an instinct for freedom!

ROSE

She just won’t quit!

SADIE

Yeah, could you please tell her to stuff it?

JOAN

No, I like it.

It reminds me of when I was alive.

Back at Triangle.

A beat.  An opportunity to mark a transition of some kind to Scene 2, “The Strike”

ROSE (unnerved)

You were at the Triangle factory?

SADIE

What?  What happened?

ROSE

They had a strike.

Then a few months later, they had a fire.

Hundreds of people were killed.

JOAN

Everyone was killed.

SCENE 2:  The Strike

The factory table becomes the scene for the strike; SADIE, ROSE, and MOLLIE are all characters in JOAN’S and BLANCK’S story (e.g., the strikebreakers, the scabs), but they also speak in their present characters.  BLANCK is speaking to an imaginary interlocutor, probably a fellow businessman.  He is not a villain; in fact, originally he was poor, ‘one of them,’ and then through hard work and luck he became ‘one of us’—i.e., the other successful owners.  In some ways he was an innovator, an idealist, trying to improve the even worse working conditions of the past (while profiting).  But he’s now a prisoner of his success; the machine, the system, forced and continues to force him into inhumane ‘choices’ that are ultimately out of his control.  Despite his power, which he asserts most of all in this story of the strike, there is a note of helplessness about him.  Deep down he feels guilty, responsible for the tragedy, but he’s defensive; he’s always seeking to justify what was done as the way the system—‘business’—required him to act.  And he’s right about that.  In the past JOAN and BLANCK were on opposite sides, but their experience of the strike and the subsequent fire has placed them in an eternal danse macabre.  They’re on another level than the girls; their stories are literally interwoven.  E.g., JOAN’s story is at times interrupted with questions or comments from the other women; BLANCK sometimes answers along with JOAN or instead of JOAN.

BLANCK

I was once just like them.

But a little more drive

and a little more luck

made me rich.

It wasn’t easy, far from it!

I clawed and scraped my way up.

I laid out the factory piece by piece.

I put in the machines.

Everything that was done

was done by me.

MOLLIE

I’m sorry, Joan, but if you were there

then you know better than anyone

the need for us to take action.

To meet with the other shops and call a strike—

ROSE (interrupting)

But things are better now.

Thanks to them.

BLANCK

We remade the whole industry!

No more sweatshops!

Our skyscraper was a thing of beauty.

JOAN

It’s true.  Jumping out of burning windows

was a little more effective than the strike,

but not much.

BLANCK

But now we had so much invested,

A strike could kill us.

SADIE

What windows?  I don’t understand!

JOAN

Neither did we.

We were inspired with WELL-BEING FOR ALL!

BLANCK

The workers were happy enough.

It was those union men

stirring up trouble.

JOAN

You’re right, Mollie, it was so simple.

BLANCK

It was a plot!

JOAN

One day, we all got up from our machines

and walked right out!

BLANCK

Before we knew it,

about 500 shops were on strike.

JOAN

There were thousands of us!

BLANCK

We couldn’t believe it.

JOAN

Many of the smaller shops

gave in to us right away.

BLANCK

I tried to keep us together.

“This is no time for cutthroats,” I said.

“We can’t let three or four East Side radicals

tell us how to run our business!”

JOAN

But the other owners signed

a declaration of “No surrender.”

BLANCK

Muscular resistance was unanimously decided upon.

JOAN

Our owner hired a parade of prostitutes

to bring the replacements in.

BLANCK

My strikebreakers were a nice touch, I thought.

JOAN

They were even tougher than the men.

BLANCK

Ha! It was whore on whore!

Kicking and punching and hair pulling!

JOAN

Then the pimps rushed in to protect their investments.

BLANCK

It was quite a show.

JOAN

The police of course were no different.

And the judges did their part,

throwing us in jail.

But we didn’t quit.

BLANCK

But they just wouldn’t quit.

JOAN

So they tried to break us other ways.

BLANCK

So I brought the replacements in cars!

The luxury was astonishing.

JOAN

They put in a phonograph

and opened the windows at lunchtime.

We could see them up there dancing.

BLANCK

The workers peeled oranges and ate rolls.

They sipped tea between dances.

JOAN

The best ones got prizes—

fancy hats, fur coats.

SADIE

Now that is cruel.

ROSE

Like dangling steaks over the heads of the starving.

JOAN

Oh, but it wasn’t the clothes.

No, no—it was the dancing!

Well, imagine dancing here, or anywhere.

Who ever has time enough?

ROSE

Or energy enough.

JOAN

No, none of us!  And there they were above us,

dancing at work, laughing at all of us below.

BLANCK

Ingenious, eh?

JOAN

We were envious for a minute.

BLANCK

Well, they were women, right?

How could they resist?

JOAN

But pretty soon we all just laughed back.

MOLLIE

Because they were like puppets!

BLANCK (astonished)

But still those girls wouldn’t quit!

MOLLIE.

The owners weren’t using you any more—

you’d come alive!

BLANCK

Almost three months they were out there.

Risking everything

MOLLIE

And then it doesn’t matter when the police

come at you with their clubs—

JOAN

Well, what was a cracked head

when we were already dying in that firetrap,

with that oily air, the dim lights,

and all the rats and roaches crawling in your skirts?

BLANCK

The whole thing made no sense to me.

The old sweatshops were far worse.

Horrible little rooms, dim and cramped,

caked with dust and dirt.

They worked a hundred hours a week,

They dropped like flies!

But they just kept coming and coming,

a new boatload every day.

ROSE

It’s not so very different now.

JOAN

Exactly.  I was beaten and arrested

off the picket line by some thug

just for not answering him.

BLANCK

But there was just no reasoning with them!

I brought in a priest to remind them

who they were supposed to obey.

JOAN

The judge who sentenced me gave me a lecture,

said I was an immoral woman for walking the line.

JOAN and BLANCK

“You are on strike against God!” he said.

JOAN

“Then God had better sell to the Devil,” I said,

“because we’re putting him out of business!”

ROSE

You said that?

JOAN

Yes, can you believe it?

That alone was worth the three days in jail.

SADIE (naïve)

So what happened?  Did you win?

JOAN (obviously)

No!

BLANCK

Finally, we took them back.  We had to.

JOAN

Oh, we got a little shorter hours,

and a little more money.

BLANCK

But still they whined and complained!

JOAN

But the shop remained closed to our Union.

BLANCK (mocking)

We want better fire escapes and sprinklers!

JOAN

And they still wouldn’t even remove

the oil barrels blocking the stairways.

BLANCK

We want the doors kept open all day long!

JOAN

And the doors were still locked.

BLANCK (defensive)

Of course the doors were locked!

If they were open, those girls would rob us blind.

They’d sneak off for hours at a time.

And that’s how the unions snake their way in.

Oh, yes, every time I was on the floor

I checked those doors

and tested the locks!

MOLLIE

Owners never care whether their factories

burn to the ground.

BLANCK

We weren’t concerned about fires at all.

Believe me, we knew all about fires.

MOLLIE

It would cost them more to make the improvements.

BLANCK (aphoristic, and then defensive)

The right fire at the right time

was good for business.

We all said that!

MOLLIE

To them the human cost is nothing!

BLANCK

Not that I gave a damn about those strikers.

JOAN

The owners told one fire inspector,

“Let ‘em burn …

BLANCK

…they’re a lot of cattle anyway!”

A pause.  JOAN and BLANCK are both unnerved by what they just said.  The memory of the fire is beginning to rise to the surface.  An opportunity to mark a transition of some kind to Scene 3, The Fire.

ROSE

We still don’t have sprinklers.

SADIE

We’ve never even had a fire drill!

JOAN

No?  Well, that won’t do at all.

It’s against the law now,

thanks to the corpses.

Maybe we’ll have one later, just for us.

SCENE 3:  The Fire

A nightmare:  the machine, the system, spins out of control.  It’s an explosion.  There is no exit, no escape—even for those who escape.  BLANCK and JOAN are now on the same side; their stories are even more completely interwoven.  They are both human beings afraid of dying, wishing they could protect the innocent (Sadie = the young ones who perished = Blanck’s daughter Mildred), but they are helpless.  There is mass movement, panic, frenzied attempts to escape, but it’s also like that dream where you’re trying to run but can’t; time slows to a stasis (e.g., the women still at their machines waiting, the women standing in the windows quivering), and all choices are reduced to chance, to the wind blowing.  Logic breaks down; things just appear as in a dream:  the clerk with the ledgers who saves BLANCK, the bolt of lawn that saves JOAN.  BLANCK (from the top of the factory) and JOAN (from the bottom) witness the same horror of the women jumping out of the building.  The equation of women and cloth implied in Scene 1 is made explicit here.  The bundles of cloth falling from the windows are revealed to be women.  The women are ‘escaping’; they are ‘stopping.’  One woman is symbolic of all of them, and JOAN and BLANCK take their time to describe her actions.  She deliberately sheds her material existence, her hat, her money.  Her actions are so human, so delicate, so full of volition.  She’s not a machine, or a bundle of cloth; she’s a person.  She shouldn’t have to jump to be free.

JOAN

Oh, poor Sadie—

That’s the face, girls, see it?

Everyone had it when we saw

that first window shattering to glitter.

One moment we were laughing and singing—

well, it was payday!—

and the next, we were screaming.

And in between,

just that one soft, silent look of fear.

ROSE

Really . . . you’re scaring the poor girl.

JOAN

Ghosts can’t hurt you, dear.

Well, not on purpose.

Anyway, I’m not talking to Sadie.

MOLLIE

I’ll take my seat back now.

JOAN

You will not.  I’m fondly reminiscing.

One grows to love these machines after a while—

once you grow out of your hatred for them.

BLANCK (somber, baffled)

We’d had lots of small fires before.

I don’t know why this one was so different.

JOAN (places her hand on her machine)

Put your hands on your machines, girls—feel that?

They do, but recoil instantly from the heat.

BLANCK

They were to blame of course.

JOAN

No, keep it there.

The air all around you felt like that,

like the fire was inside you,

just beneath your skin.  (gently removes her hand.)

BLANCK

What kind of idiot puts out their cigarette

in a bin of cloth?

JOAN

Oh, it spread so fast!

Flames started shooting up

all around like fountains,

right up through these machines.

Our work-baskets were exploding!

BLANCK

The bins went off like bombs!

JOAN

We jumped for the exits,

but the fire escapes and elevators

were already crushed.

BLANCK

I was there.  It was horrible.

JOAN

The one stairwell we were allowed to use

was blocked by smoke and fire,

and of course, the other door was locked.

BLANCK (disgusted)

The women fell into a panic,

JOAN

Groups of us kept running back and forth,

JOAN and BLANCK

… screaming like wildcats.

JOAN

Even me!  Who had shown such poise during the strike.

“We’re putting God out of business!”

BLANCK

Mildred was with me,

My daughter, only five years old.

JOAN

People were throwing the slow ones out of the way,

BLANCK

I had promised to take her shopping.

JOAN

Especially the little girls

we used to hide from the inspectors.

BLANCK

A crush of those madwomen

swarmed the elevator.

JOAN

Girls not much younger than Sadie.

BLANCK

In the wild push

Mildred was swept in!

MOLLIE

Leave her out of it.

BLANCK

Just in time I grabbed her wrist

and pulled her out before the door closed.

JOAN

Compassion for the weak!

Why didn’t we think of that?

BLANCK

They never made it down.

JOAN

We were stepping on the ones who had fainted

as if they were sacks of cloth.

BLANCK

The people crowded all around us.

“Mr Blanck, save us!”

But what could I do?

And my daughter there crying,

clutching my leg.

JOAN

But you had to keep running,

BLANCK

We didn’t know where to run.

JOAN

Or you’d end up

like those strange women

who still hadn’t even gotten up

from their machines.

BLANCK

I guess they were frozen with fear,

but they seemed perfectly calm,

like they were just waiting

for the foreman to come release them.

JOAN

Maybe they believed that somehow

everything would be all right,

like our parents always told us,

because things were different here—

“In America, they don’t let you burn.”

BLANCK

They found them that night as skeletons,

still bending over their machines.

A pause.

SADIE

So . . . how did you get out?

JOAN

I didn’t.

BLANCK

By chance the shipping clerk ran by.

JOAN

One time around the shop,

I found myself by the windows

BLANCK

He was saving our ledgers.

JOAN

Several people were standing there like statues,

except their legs were quivering.

BLANCK

When he saw me,

he dropped the ledgers

and grabbed Mildred.

JOAN

I started to get up there with them,

and then something like a gust of wind

blew me away from there as fast as I could go.

BLANCK

He pulled me by the coat.

“Get on the roof!”

JOAN

Suddenly I came to a stop, and . . .

I saw a bolt of lawn

just sitting there on a table,

all clean and white.

It wasn’t burning,

it wasn’t even hot.

BLANCK

“Go on, take it,” he said,

“It’s the only way!”

JOAN

I grabbed it and wrapped it around my body

until only my eyes showed through a little crack.

BLANCK

So we dove into the smoke

and skirted the flames shooting

at us from all sides.

JOAN

Then I ran down the narrow stairwell,

right into the teeth of the flames,

peeling off the burning lawn

layer by layer.

BLANCK

Our clothing and hair were singed.

JOAN

By the time I got down to the sixth floor

I’d left most of it in ashes behind me.

BLANCK

I nearly passed out from the smoke.

JOAN

And when it was gone,

all went dark.

BLANCK

But we made it to the top.

JOAN

I woke up down below,

lying on a sidewalk.

BLANCK

There was a ladder to the building next to us.

JOAN

They gave me milk,

and I threw up smoke.

BLANCK

We saw it all from there.

JOAN

I looked up and saw

all these bundles of cloth

falling from the building.

BLANCK

It looked like piles of rubbish

were being tossed out the window.

JOAN

And I thought—

Why are they saving their cloth

and not the people?

BLANCK

Burning and smoking bundles.

JOAN

But then one of the bundles of cloth opened,

and I saw a pair of legs inside,

and then another opened, and another.

It was raining women!

Sometimes three and four at a time.

BLANCK

They fell like meteors,

like they were shot from the building.

JOAN

They’d hit the ground,

and just … stop!

BLANCK

The life nets were useless.

We all tried to get them to stop,

JOAN

One of the cops who had clubbed us during the strike

was standing right next to me, yelling

BLANCK

“Don’t jump, you crazy females!

Don’t jump!”

JOAN

His face was wet with tears.

But you could see the flames licking at their heels.

JOAN and BLANCK

And then, this one girl came out on the ledge

and inched away from the window.

BLANCK

For a while, she stood there staring straight ahead

as though she were looking at herself in a mirror.

JOAN

Then very carefully she took off her hat

and sent it sailing through the air.

BLANCK

In the same way, she opened her pay envelope

and scattered the bills and coins

like so many dead leaves and clumps of dirt.

JOAN

Then she tilted her head back and gazed into the mirror,

and in that mirror was me.

“Jump,” I said.  “JUMP!”

A pause.  An opportunity to mark a transition of some kind to Scene 4, The Fire Drill.

SADIE

I think that was your Guardian Angel

who showed you the way out.

JOAN

Was it?  Oh, that’s right.

That’s what they said at the trial.

BLANCK

Manslaughter, they called it!

But our lawyer was quite good.

And the judge, he understood.

JOAN

It was all an act of God, they said.

BLANCK

They were stupid.

JOAN

They panicked.

SCENE 4: The Fire Drill

So now what?  More organized resistance to the machine?  But here’s another trap:  caring enough to all-out resist requires an equal and opposite callousness—i.e., you need to be as ruthless as the system to fight it at its core and not in a superficial way.  JOAN thus tries to show MOLLIE the untested innocence of her faith in activism.  As JOAN retreats in the despair and helplessness she learned from the trauma, BLANCK rebuilds himself, repeating that he understands the plight of those who perished, that he cares too:  he was one of them once, and he was there and saw the horror first hand.  But he also retreats into the authority vested in him by the system—again, that is his trap, his source of helplessness.  Deep down he feels responsible for the tragedy, but he is powerless to expiate his guilt, as that would require him to give up all who he is.  So he takes the easy way; he invokes the idea that things are different now, they have laws, fire codes, etc.  i.e., “In America they don’t let you burn.”  And yet toward the end he admits even these token laws are not followed if they conflict with profit, with ‘business.’  To show these conflicts persist, JOAN stages a fire drill, a re-creation of the past panic we just saw.  The superficial safety measures are not sufficient; the saving water is just more cloth to stoke the flames.  The cruelty to SADIE reminds us that there is no compassion for the weak.  The women are still trapped, the door is still locked; even worse, the doors are now chained.  Despite the laws, the system allows for violations in order to protect profits.  And BLANCK, racked with guilt, helplessly re-asserts his need to keep the doors locked.  Business is business.  The machine-system goes on and on.  The activist sits down; she can’t unlock the door by herself, and besides she has a family to support.  The problem is more complex and difficult than she’d thought.  But it is a problem, and it needs to be solved.  Who will unlock the doors?  How can they be unlocked?  What is to be done?

MOLLIE

No!  I’m sorry, Joan,

but this horror you’ve survived

only proves my point.

JOAN

I’m happy to have been of service.

MOLLIE

We can’t just lie down and take the world

as it’s given to us by those who profit from it.

We have to fight!

JOAN

We did fight—

MOLLIE

And keep fighting!

JOAN

You don’t know what you’re saying.

You have to see people die for nothing!

MOLLIE

They’re already dying for nothing.

JOAN

Terrible deaths—

MOLLIE

A slow death is not better than a fast one.

JOAN (with immense authority)

You do not know that!

If you could only see it.

You tried to step in when Sadie was scared,

but when you fight you can’t do that.

What you fight against doesn’t care if she dies.

BLANCK (agitated)

It’s not that I don’t care.

JOAN

Your only chance is if you stop caring yourself.

MOLLIE

I’ll never stop caring.

BLANCK

I was once just like them!

JOAN

But you don’t have a choice.

Either you become as callous as they are,

or you die inside each time someone like Sadie does

BLANCK

It wasn’t easy for me either.

JOAN

You end up a ghost like me!

BLANCK

I clawed and scraped my way up.

I laid out that factory piece by piece.

JOAN

Caring that deeply

doesn’t help at all, Mollie.

BLANCK

Everything that was done

was done by me.

JOAN

It just hurts.

BLANCK

I was there too.

I saw it, I suffered!

My daughter slipped from my grasp,

she was on her way down.

Five years old—

Imagine the nightmares she had!

I saw them jump.

But it wasn’t my fault.

And anyway…

ROSE

Those women’s deaths were not in vain, Joan.

JOAN

Oh, of course.  All that was seven years ago,

ancient history.

JOAN and BLANCK

Now we have laws.

BLANCK

Now the fire escapes are much better.

We have fire drills.

JOAN

Oh, that’s right, I promised you a fire drill,

didn’t I, Sadie?

Fine, let’s have it.

There’s a fire under the table, what do you do?

SADIE

I don’t know.

JOAN

What do you mean?

There’s a fire.  Think quickly.

SADIE

Find the Forewoman?

JOAN

The Forewoman is dead.  Now what?

SADIE

I don’t know!

ROSE

Get the water bucket.

SADIE

What bucket?

JOAN

The bucket they gave you when we died.  Hurry.

ROSE

I’ll get it.

JOAN

No, Sadie’s nearest the bucket.

And already she’s wasted so much time. (To SADIE.)

Well, go on!  We’ll all be dead in five minutes.

SADIE runs over to the bucket, looks in, and hesitates.

Bring it here!  Hurry.

SADIE runs back.

Go on, pour it.

SADIE

But—

JOAN

Don’t worry about the mess.  Pour it!

SADIE pours; scraps of cloth fall out.

JOAN

Oh, that won’t help much, will it?

Now what?

SADIE

I don’t know!

JOAN

The fire’s out of control.

We have no hoses.

ROSE

Evacuate!

JOAN

Yes!  Get the door, Sadie.

SADIE runs to the door.

Stand there and make sure the cattle

proceed down the exit in an orderly fashion.

What on earth is the matter?

SADIE

It’s stuck.

JOAN

Hurry, people are crowding, we need to get out!

SADIE

I’m trying, but it won’t open.

JOAN

Nonsense!  The law requires it to be open.

Pull harder.

SADIE

It won’t open!  I think it’s locked!

JOAN

Impossible!  We died for that door!

Open that door or you’re fired!

SADIE

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!

SADIE collapses in a puddle, still trying to open the door. ROSE goes over.

ROSE (angry at Joan)

It’s chained shut!

ROSE comforts SADIE.

JOAN

Chained?  Well, that’s odd.

Not even ours were chained.

BLANCK

Of course the doors are still locked.

Those girls would rob us blind.

JOAN

I’m sorry, Sadie, my mistake.

BLANCK

And that’s how the unions snake their way in.

JOAN

We’d better tell the owners at once,

hadn’t we, Sadie?

BLANCK

Oh, yes, every time I’m on the floor

I check those doors . . .

JOAN

Rose?

BLANCK

. . . and test the locks.

JOAN

Mollie?

BLANCK

I was there.

Yes, it was horrible.

But business is business.

And the doors must be locked.

JOAN

I guess it’s up to me.

Take my place, Mollie.

MOLLIE sits down.

There’s a girl.

You do good work here.

Your family must be very proud.

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